Roswell Burrows Fitch (1833-1908) was born in the seaside village of Noank to parents Elisha and Mary P. Fitch. At twelve years of age he commenced to be self-supporting, and from then until he was fourteen, occupied a clerkship in a general store in town. In his teens, summers were spent aboard ships fishing for a livelihood, and his winters attending school. Upon completing his education, he became clerk in a store, and was afterwards engaged to assume the management of a union store which was erected for the special purpose of being placed under his charge. The store, located on Main Street in Noank, was eventually fully purchased by Fitch, and he did well financially. He may have had this house built or merely bought it years after it was built in the mid-19th century. When he sold his business in 1890, he “Victorianized” the classically designed Greek Revival style house with Queen Anne embellishments. The renovations in 1890 included an octagonal tower, an elaborate porch, a two-door entry likely replaced the sidelights and transom, brackets and applied decoration at the gable and cornice, and a Palladian window which was a Colonial-inspired addition. Hodge-podge or eclectic houses are some of the most fun!
Thomas Jefferson Sawyer House // 1840
Thomas Jefferson Sawyer was born in 1807 in Groton, Connecticut as the tenth of 13 children of William and Prudence Sawyer. It appears that his parents were running out of names by the time they had ten children, so they named number ten after the then President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson Sawyer moved to Noank’s coastal village in 1840 and built this interesting Greek Revival house with an atypical hipped roof. Sawyer was a sea-captain who remained in Noank until his death and he was a very active member of the local Baptist church. The Sawyer House remains as a unique example of the Greek Revival style captains house, which the village is known for.
Robert Palmer Jr. House // 1907
Robert Palmer Jr. (1856-1914) was born in Groton, Connecticut as the son of Robert Sr., a prominent businessman and Deacon in Noank’s seaside village (his house was featured previously). Robert Sr. established the Palmer shipyard, which became the largest business enterprise in Noank. Jr. would later join his father’s business and did well for himself financially, eventually marrying and building this Neo-Classical mansion on Church Street in town. The company, under Sr. and Jr.’s leadership, built many seafaring vessels that were internationally renowned until the company closed in 1914 after the death of Robert Jr. This house is unique in town for the monumental two-story portico, Palladian windows at the first floor, and a projecting entry vestibule.
Deacon Robert Palmer House // 1884
Perched on the highest hill in the coastal village of Noank, Connecticut, you will find this absolutely enchanting gingerbread Victorian mansion. The house was built in 1884 for Deacon Robert Palmer (1825-1913), a wealthy man who wasn’t only deacon of the village’s Baptist church, he was the owner of a flourishing shipyard, and it was his shipyard workers who built him, with loving care, a house he could be proud of! Robert ran the shipyard in town first with his brother, and then with his son. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the shipyard was the largest facility for building and repair of wooden vessels in southern New England, employing over 300 men. The yard specialized in building railroad car floats, schooner barges, and dump scows as well as fishing smacks. Robert Palmer and Son went out of business in 1914 with the passing of the Robert. The Stick style mansion with mansard roofed tower remained in the Palmer family until the early 2000s when it sold and was restored to her former glory. The residence features exposed rafters, a pagoda-like second story balcony, a frieze with geometric cut-outs, and a wrap-around porch which provides sweeping views of the ocean. I can only imagine how beautiful this old Victorian is on the inside!
Former Noank Methodist Church // 1902
Adaptive reuse of old buildings always makes me so happy to see! Besides the obvious benefit of preserving an old building which contributes to the history and character of an area, there are clear environmental benefits to renovating older buildings for new uses when older uses are no longer viable. In 1902, the village of Noank was bustling with workers in the shipyards, many of whom attended or hoped to attend religious services close to home rather than travelling to adjacent towns. As a result, the local Methodist church-goers had this building constructed. Architecturally, the building is a hodge-podge of styles with interesting lancet windows as a nod to the Gothic style, shingle and clapboard siding which reads Queen Anne. The Noank Methodist Church merged with the Groton Methodist Church to form Christ United Methodist Church, which moved to a new building in 1972. The former church was converted into a residence. Preservation wins!
Josephus Fitch House // 1809
Not far from the Pelatiah Fitch House is this charming Federal Cape house in Noank, CT, built for Pelatiah’s grandson, Josephus (there are a lot of great names in this family)! Pelatiah’s eldest son Josephus was born in 1745 and was equipped for service in the American Revolution by his father. He survived the war, but in 1778, he perished at sea aboard a whaling vessel. Josephus Fitch Jr., his mother and siblings remained in Noank and tried to re-establish a life after losing their father who was just 32 years old. He grew up and married, and eventually purchased land in town, building this cape house in 1809. The house is vernacular with modest trim surrounding the door, 12-over-12 windows, and two small dormers at the roof.
Moses Latham House // c.1845
Noank is a charming seaside village within the town of Groton that is centered on a peninsula at the mouth of the Mystic River where it spills out into the Long Island Sound. Historically, the area was known as Nauyang (meaning “point of land”) and was a summer camping ground of the Pequot people, but they were driven out in 1655 following the Pequot War. White settlement was slow here until the mid-19th century, when the shipbuilding and fishing economy took off here. As a result, houses, stores, churches and industries were built, and an entire village was formed. Most extant homes here were constructed starting in the 1840s as the village (and nearby Mystic) saw economic growth from the maritime trades. This house, the Moses Latham House, was constructed for Mr. Latham in about 1845. The house is Greek Revival in style with flush-board siding, a fan light in the gable which reads as a pediment, and a simple portico supported by fluted Doric columns.
Versailles United Methodist Church // 1876
After the Civil War, the Village of Versailles’ Congregational Church was seeing less attendance and its deathknell was a fire which destroyed the building in 1870. That next year, a vote was taken by members of the Congregational Church as to a preference for their denomination. A majority voted for Methodist Episcopal and asked the New England Conference to appoint a Pastor for the new church. Funds were gathered and this church was opened in 1876, in the Italianate and Victorian Gothic styles. The building sits upon a raised brick foundation with small windows on the facade. In 1887, the Versailles church was linked with Baltic and Greenville (Norwich) the following year.
Versailles School // 1924
While Baltic has long been the dense population center of the Town of Sprague, Connecticut, the Village of Versailles has also had ties to industry and growth. The village was originally named Eagleville but was renamed sometime in the late 19th century. The village is located along the Shetucket River and has had industry, which was slower to grow than neighboring Baltic. The village had a wood-frame school building, which was consumed by fire in the early 20th century. In 1924, this substantial “fire-proof” school was built just at the time the Town of Sprague was consolidating schools, in the three main population centers: Baltic, Hanover and Versailles. The schools were consolidated again and this building was sold in the mid-1950s. It was later a Masonic Lodge and is now a commercial use, occupied by Dark Manor, Inc., a haunted house company.
Academy of the Holy Family // 1914
Built adjacent to and just a few years after the St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Baltic (last post), the Academy of the Holy Family stands as a high-style Colonial Revival building in the town. The building stands four full floors with a raised basement and attic story, and is symmetrical in its design. A large fan-light transom and stone trimmings add much depth to the buildings large massing. The structure was built in 1914, and has housed the Academy of the Holy Family, a private, Roman-Catholic all-girls prep school, which is still active today.